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Czech composer and musicologist, Dr. Jan Vičar (b. May 5, 1949 in Olomouc) is an amazing person with a tremendous sense of imagination and wit. He began playing the accordion at the age of eight. He won many awards as a soloist or in duo with his brother in the national Contests of Young People’s Creativity. After studying accordion and clarinet at the People’s Conservatory in Olomouc, he continued his studies in music education and Czech at the Philosophical Faculty of Palacký University in Olomouc (1967-1972). He simultaneously pursued accordion studies at the Conservatory in Ostrava. He completed his career as a solo accordionist by winning first place in the instrumental category of the Army Contest of Artistic Talents in 1973.
During his studies, he was engaged as a leader of student ensembles, as an instrumentalist and composer of songs in the area of pop music, and as a choirmaster of the university students choir. At the onset of his career as composer Jan Vičar began composing popular songs at the age of fifteen; and some of them were recorded by Czechoslovakian Radio. His songs for children (“Captain,” “Drawn with a Yellow Crayon,” “Bandits on the Moon?” etc.) were performed by the Ostrava Radio Children’s Choir of Jaromír Richter with the accompaniment of the rock group Flamingo, and became quite popular in the late sixties. In 1973 he began teaching at the Department of Musicology and Music Education at Palacký University, Olomouc. In 1980 he started to lecture on music theory at the Department of Music Theory and History of the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Prague. This intensified his research and pedagogical orientation (Ph.D. in 1974, C.Sc. in 1985, associate professor of Academy of Music and Performing Arts in 1988, associate professor of Palacký University in 1995, professor of the theory and history of music in 1998). After The Velvet Revolution (1989) Vičar has been active in the re-establishment of the musicology program (canceled in 1980) at Palacký University (became the head of the Division, later Department of Musicology, 1990-98, from 2000 on). He is also a professor at the Faculty of Music of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He was a visiting professor at Birmingham-Southern College, Alabama, USA (2005).
His activities as composer of classical contemporary music deepened in the years 1976 through 1981 when he studied composition at Janáček’s Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno (with Zdeněk Zouhar) as well as at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Prague (with Jiří Dvořáček). Music critics acclaimed his exotic vocal cycle “Japanese Year,” cantata “Cry,” the polystylistic “String Quartet and Sonata” for flute and cembalo; the folksy “Nonet about Mountains, Oak Groves and the Land of Wallachia,” and the virtuoso “Music for strings and timpani.” Research, critical, educational and organizational activities in the second half of the eighties kept Vičar out of his developing compositional career until the 1990’s. He sought renewed inspiration in the formation of children’s choruses and in exotic and historic themes. This exploration resulted in the collection, Choruses and Songs for Children (Olomouc 1997) and the chamber pieces The Instructions of Suruppak, and Night Prayer, which were performed at the Days of Contemporary Music in Prague and at the Fifth International Festival of Contemporary Music in Santiago de Chile. Vičar’s inventive, expressive, and technically refined work is illuminated by contemporary compositional techniques. Because of his use of popular idioms as well as elements of neoclassical and ethnic music, Vičar’s work can be classified within the broad framework of today’s musical post modernism. Among his most recent successes is first prize at the 9th International Composers’ Competition Jihlava 2008.
His publications include the following books: The Accordion and its Musical Use (Praha 1981), Václav Trojan (Praha 1989), Music Criticism and Popularization of Music (Praha 1997), Musical Aesthetics (Praha 1998, co-author R. Dykast), Imprints. Essays on Czech Music and Aesthetics (Togga, Prague 2005, in English).
Dr. Vičar spent the 1999 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. As an exchange program from his assignments at Palacký University in Olomouc and at the Prague Musical Academy to the USA, Vičar presented himself as a lecturer on Czech music for American audiences and also as a researcher of 19th century Czech musicians who came to this country.
Notes on Three Marches for Dr. Kabyl
In the biography of Dr. Kabyl enclosed within this score of Three Marches authored by the composer, one can find enough interesting material to wow anyone about the one and only bizarre Dr. Kabyl (we don’’t even know his first name!). Yet, we know that he was born in Moravia, came to the USA, fought in the Civil War, played his clarinet at the Battle of the Big Horn, worked on the laying of track for the Northern Pacific Railway, wrestled whales in Puget Sound, etc. etc… In 1893, he coincidentally met Antonín Dvořák in St. Paul when he was visiting Minnehaha Falls. In 1895, we find him in Africa, working with pygmies,— a tribe named Kabyles. And the story continues! A most interesting chap who led a most varied life!
The Czech Moravian spirit of wit and wonderful craziness of Dr. Kabyl lives on via the musical craft of Jan Vičar. As entertaining and engaging as the life of Dr. Kabyl was, that same essence is captured by the composer in “Vičar’s,” “Three Marches,” “—General McCook,” “Walking Whales in Washington,” and “Pixie” —which celebrate certain characteristics of Kabyl with sheer abandonment through singing, whistles, percussion punches, and sparkling dissonances of melodic fragments at 1/2 step intervals, all creating a champagne of sheer musical frolic! Perfect for marching band satires, encores, children’s programs, political rallies, and scores of other events. Three Marches is guaranteed to bring smiles of joy and laughter!
“Who is Dr. Kabyl?” by Jan Vičar
Dr. Kabyl was a lawyer, traveler, adventurer and builder of American railways, an amateur musician, and lover of fine arts. He was of Czech origin. Information about his life is based solely on the material incidentally preserved in a newspaper article — Dr. Kabyl, unknown comrade of General Alexander McDowell McCook —published in Nebraska sometime in March of 1899. An attempt to verify at least some of the statements in this article has led to the surprising discovery that official records for the name Kabyl are either missing in registers and other archive files or have been changed for unknown reasons. Alas, Kabyl’’s Christian name is nowhere to be found. He will never be known by any name other than the title of doctor by which he was identified in the retouched record about Kabyl’’s birth.
Dr. Kabyl was born in Krelov near Olomouc (in today’’s Czech Republic) in 1839. He studied liberal arts at the University in Olomouc, and, after the cancellation of this university by the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef I in 1860, he went on to study law at the newly established University in Innsbruck, present-day Austria. As a native Moravian, he was active in the Czech national revival student movement. However, after he had participated in transporting the historical insignia of Olomouc University to Innsbruck, he was denounced for national ambiguousness and political time-serving. This experience, followed by an abortive attempt to work as an articled clerk in Vyškov and Holešov (in Moravia, present-day Czech Republic), probably contributed to his decision to emigrate to America.
In America, he fought in the Civil War against the South at the side of General McCook, to whom he dedicated his march “Captain.” Four bars of the instrumental introduction to this composition are known because they were reprinted as a facsimile of a manuscript in the above mentioned newspaper article. Later, Dr. Kabyl took part in the construction of the Northern Pacific Railway from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean and particularly, in the building of the railway station at the edge of the Missisippi River, in the locality named Saint Cloud (today, St. Cloud, Minnesota). Later, in the region of Puget Sound in the state of Washington, he became a household name for his whirls with whales.
But Kabyl’’s unfulfilled dream, inspired by his reading of books by Jules Verne, was to connect the American Capitol, Washington, D. C., with Seattle (Washington) and Vancouver in Canada by an elevated express rail-line. He traveled to the Capitol itself occasionally, especially to lobby for this and other visionary projects. He also participated in some demonstrations at the Mall aimed against the malpractices of some Republican Congressmen.
At Minnehaha Falls in Minnesota, he met Antonín Dvořák in 1893 by accident. But he came to see this chance meeting as the major event of his life. He passionately loved music, and since his service in the Military Band of the 40th King and Emperors’ Infantry Regiment in Olomouc, he played a fair clarinet. For this instrument, he wrote the tragically lost work, “Assassination,” which the above mentioned article cryptically suggests as having a possible relation to the famous Sioux victory at the Battle of Little Big Horn, as well as some subtle allusions to his friendship with the celebrated Sioux Chief, Sitting Bull, whom he reputedly met several times.
It is not evident how Dr. Kabyl supported himself in America, and moreover, what caused his sudden departure for Africa. In the middle of 1890, where, already in the employ of British Queen Victoria, he explored the catchment of river Zambezi in the area of Victoria Waterfalls from the point of view of building a railway. He kept company with the pygmies, Bushmen and Liliputs, studied their languages and called them friendly (skr“etove, pronounced “skrzhehtohveeh”). He claimed that the smallest elf he had ever met was able to hide himself behind the picture hanging on the wall of his workroom. All traces of Dr. Kabyl vanish soon after the publication of the article in 1899, although this musical adventurer and traveller appeared among the Moravians in the area of Salem (today’s Winston-Salem) in North Carolina for a short visit. After several months, he left for North Africa, intending to do research among Berberian tribes the origin of a tribal group designated mysteriously as Kabyles.
Dr. Kabyl was an excellent connoisseur of languages, especially of English which he spoke fluently, with only the slightest strange residue of his Moravian pronunciation, and especially of its Kr“elovian variant.
Dr. Kabyl was, more or less accidentally, recalled for the first time in the Song of Zambezi published in 1963 by the authors Jan Vičar and Zdeněk Karlach. The Three Marches for Dr. Kabyl by Jan Vičar, composed in 1999, are a memorial to this mysterious personality. The first two parts of this cycle were premiered by the musicologist and conductor Dr. Stanislav Bohadlo in McCook, Nebraska, on March 14, 1999. The complete performance of the three marches was introduced by the lieutenant Radomil Cilecek and Garrison Music Brno at Semilasso Hall, on November 6, 2000. The Three Marches are dedicated to McCook, Nebrastka (“General McCook”), to Kenton Frohrip (“Walking Whales in Washington”), and to the St. Cloud (Minnesota) University Wind Ensemble, Richard Hansen, conductor (“Pixie”). The composer arranged Three Marches for Dr. Kabyl also for brass quintet which was finished on March 14, 2000.